Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked about technology and its positive impact on governance as he invited global investors to India during a town hall event with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at the social media giant’s headquarters in San Jose on Sunday.
Speaking at the event, Modi said his aim was to convert India’s economy from $8 trillion to $20 trillion. The government’s focus is on manufacturing, service and agriculture sectors, said Modi, who came to power last year riding on his promise to dole out jobs and boost the economy.
“It’s amazing how perception about India has changed in a very short period of time. We’ve brought in a new level of confidence,” Modi said, projecting India as a “heaven” for investors and emphasising that his government is working on deregulation and ensuring ‘ease of doing business’
“I don’t think there is a shortage of money in the world. Countries may not know where to put their money so I am calling them to India.”
Modi is eager to bring bigger technology investments and jobs back to India to help its growing startup scene. Much of his Silicon Valley visit, which began Saturday, has focused on connecting with the Indian diaspora community and top executives.
“It’s important for us to have effective and easy governance, and for that technology is very important,” Modi said, “We are bringing technology into governance in a very big way. This is making governance easy, effective, economical and transparent.”
Modi, 65, is the first Indian leader to visit the West Coast -- he is on a two-day visit to the US tech hub -- in more than 30 years. His trip follows a similar visit by China’s president, Xi Jinping, who met several tech leaders in Seattle last week.
Talking about his pet Make in India scheme, Modi said he was hopeful the campaign will be a success since “we have certain assets other countries doesn’t have”. He said demographic dividend, demand and democracy were India’s advantage, and added he believed in a fourth ‘D’ called ‘de-regularisation’.
He answered questions over the ‘slow pace’ of reforms by saying that India is a huge country and it will take time for the reform measures to show results.
Replying to questions, Modi stressed the power of social media and technology in the modern times. “Social media can tell the government where it’s going wrong. It gives them an opportunity for correction. It is the strength of democracy, he said, “Social media brought a big change in my thought process.”
For his part, Zuckerberg said: “I am personally impressed by the example PM Narendra Modi has set in using social media to directly communicate with citizens.”
Insisting that “scale and speed” of reforms had increased in the 15 months of his government, Modi appeared to take a dig at the previous regimes when he said
that nationalisation of banks was undertaken 40 years back but 60% of the population was without a bank account till his dispensation introduced the Jan Dhan scheme last year.
“180 million accounts were opened within 100 days of our government. This is the speed and scale of change,” he said.
Replying to questions, Modi stressed the power of social media and technology in the modern times. “Social media can tell the government where it’s going wrong. It gives them an opportunity for correction. It is the strength of democracy,” he said, “Social media brought a big change in my thought process.”
For his part, Zuckerberg said: “I am personally impressed by the example PM Narendra Modi has set in using social media to directly communicate with citizens.” This was the second such event for the young billionaire with a world leader after US President Barack Obama.
There was a rare emotional moment in the session as Modi broke down while talking about his mother and his humble background as a ‘chaiwallah (tea seller)’.
Ahead of the event, Zuckerberg expressed his support to the ‘Digital India’ campaign and changed his profile picture to convey his appreciation for the Modi government’s effort to connect rural communities to internet.
Facebook has already launched an effort to connect with lower-income Indians through Zuckerberg’s Internet.org project, but it has met with resistance from Indian groups who say the project favours the company’s social network and other products over homegrown web services.
(With agency inputs)